Box Hill battle wins a new friend

Map reference: Kingston, Cobham, Fetcham, Box Hill, and loop back, 60k

Carbs and Caffeine: Top of Box Hill, tea and coffee cake, our old favourite, ahhh, it’s been a while

Feeling slightly unsure of myself, after failing to make the grade last time I was out, I nearly decided to take the light bike out today, but no, this was a fairly flat, slowish run, it had to be my heavy bike. Funny… not so long ago my aluminium Giant was my beautiful bike, I feel I am treating it very unfairly by referring to it so disparagingly. She’s still very trim and lovely. She is my second bike in name alone.

Following Jacqui’s very precise instructions, Jen and I rallied at 10.10 and we set off on familiar roads out to Surrey. As we were trundling along the quiet lanes of Polesden Lacey, we passed a man in a bright yellow jacket, freewheeling along, listening to music and as we paused to regroup he asked the way to Box Hill. We were heading that way so he joined us, reassuring us that he was in no hurry.

And so off we went… in no hurry… until we got to Box Hill. As we turned right onto the zigzag, the pace picked up. I had it in mind to try for some speed (I’m getting addicted to my Strava bling – for the uninitiated, Strava is a website that checks your speed against everyone else, and awards you ‘medals’), then remembered I was on bike number two. But by then it was too late. We were clearly in a race and I was the mug at the front doing the towing. Before the second hairpin, our new mate made his move, and overtook me easily. What had seemed like a slightly stocky frame in his waterproof jacket, turned out to be sitting on very muscley cycling legs.

Jen politely stayed behind me, but as we hit the flattish bit I told her to go and get him. And off she went… poor man, once Jen sets her sights on a challenge, she generally gets there. And she did, from quite a way back.

At the top we introduced ourselves. Jason from South Africa has only been in the country since January and still feeling his away around the area… and he’s a spinning instructor. Chapeau, Jen, Chapeau indeed.

We offered Jason a tow back to Kingston – that’s a joke Jason – and he companionably took out his earbuds and chatted to us all the way back, trusting that our dodging,  diving and weaving route would get him back to the familiar roads of Kingston, from where he could find his way back home. Mind you he had one of those Garmins where you can just ask it take you home and it will. That may have been why he was so relaxed. And the three of us are probably not very threatening … unless you get Jen’s goat.

Note to self: must check if Bike Bean is doing their Thursday run. It would be embarrassing to drag Jen to Ashtead for nothing

New bike’s baptism of fire


Worth a trip: Tanhouse, buzzing with cyclists and the odd toddler

 (picture:TripAdvisor)

Map reference: Cafe Bean, Ashtead, to Newdigate and back… via Pebble Hill

Carbs and caffeine: Tanhouse Farm shop http://www.tanhousefarm.co.uk, and not a moment too soon

Today my new bike and I set off on our first excursion together, with a completely new group too. I had been put in touch with a very keen cyclist called Jo through a school contact and I turned up today for a Cafe Bean ride with really no idea what to expect. I thought it was a ‘ladies’ ride, but oh no, it was mostly men, and quite pacey. We started off as 17 but lost two riders within 15 minutes.

I was a little concerned at the casual way they were dropped and desperately pedalled to keep up with the peloton. We were averaging 24k/h, hitting a max of 52k/h, and I didn’t know that the two dropees had been prepped to just peel away if they found it too fast. So with fear driving me on – I did not know where we were most of the time – I pedalled like fury and got my second wind. And after about an hour (and a couple of painkillers for my niggling back) I began to relax and grab the odd word with the rest of the crew on the flats. Nice bunch, cyclists generally are…

I have to say I was ready for the cafe stop at about the 40k mark. I finally caught up with Jo there, who kindly bought the caffeine required to ensure my continuing pace for the return leg. It’s a fantastic, friendly spot. We sat outside, briefly, discussing saddles and watching a toddler war in the play area. My money was on the boy in the stripey green shirt, but I lost when the boy in the blue jacket thumped him. We shouldn’t have laughed, but toddlers are so ridiculously transparent.

The return journey was shorter, but Hanno, the group leader had a little trick up his sleeve, driving us into Pebble Hill. I sensed the unease in the pack as we got nearer, although I was blissfully unaware of the challenge ahead, and Jo began to talk herself into a complete funk. She’s really strong on the flat but doesn’t fancy hills. Nonetheless, except for one chap who peeled off to go round the hill instead, we all made it up. I think it was about 20% at worst.

Perhaps this is the moment to apologise for saying that Barhatch Road was 29% on Tuesday. Apparently it’s only 22% (I think the blood pumping on my head must have effected my hearing, I’m sure that’s what Rob said) but I have to say today’s climb seemed more than 2% easier. Jo made it easily and clearly felt good about it. And so did I… getting off on a hill as I did two days ago leaves you with serious doubts about yourself.

With such negative thoughts banished, I shot into Velosport on my return, for Nick to confirm that Husband had set my saddle perfectly. Sorry Nick, both I and the bike could have done with a bath first.

Note to self: time to invest in a foam roller, Nick’s right, IT band still too tight. Ouch, rollers hurt

Beaten by 29% hill… bah

Displaying photo.JPG

Amusant? I’m not sure my LaPierre is going to take to this Italian bling

Map reference: out to the Surrey hills from Worcester Park, 100k, 1,200m climbing

Carbs and caffeine: cuppa at Peaslake Village Stores http://www.peaslakevillagestores.com/, new loo a blessing

Jacqui is away at the moment, so she kindly lent me her husband for our regular Tuesday slot. Rob is training for the Flanders (250k, 1,800m climbing) and so proposed ten Surrey hills and 140k. Unfortunately we set off a bit late with one thing and another and I had to cut this short to 100k and about 5 1/2 hills.

Along the way I got snowed on (yes, really) and beaten by a 29% hill (Rob tells me it is 29%, my Garmin had given up and gone back to zero). I am annoyed by this as I hopped off about 4m from the end of a longish climb. I had had to take pain killers for my back at one and a half hours, which is a setback in itself. I think my spine is still suffering from the short French bed on holiday and disastrous ride on ill-fitting saddle  last week. And then about three hours in to the ride we were on a perfectly normal hill – ranging from 10-20 percent with some false flats – and suddenly there was a ramp in front of me, with the top tantalisingly in view. It truly was a ramp, such as you see in a multi-storey car park. I’ve looked on the map, and as far as I can work out it was on Barhatch Road. Avoid it at your peril… or bring crampons.

So I am resting today; stretching and planning for tomorrow, when I intend to take LaPierre out for a joyride with a new group. One of the prep things was to use my credit at Pearsons http://www.pearsoncycles.co.uk/ to buy water bottle holders. They assure me that the titanium ones pictured above, made by Ciussi, are my best bet. They are light and strong, if strangely blingy. My bike is turning into a patchwork of European style. As long as I don’t have to get into Greek style debt to get the new brakes I desperately need, I should be fine.

Note to self: don’t forget to switch your saddle and stem bags too… going out without tubes and gas is not smart

Riding circles…

Crop circle: The Wells estate, just outside Ashtead village

Map reference: slightly shorter than intended ride, to Ashtead and back, 50k

Carbs and caffeine: piece of cake from the musette

Husband took the afternoon off work so that we could go for a ride and we needed a trip to Ashtead anyway so that was the plan. In the morning, I dipped into some of Bealsey’s http://www.bespoke-velo.co.uk/ rides on the Garmin to make sure I was clear on the best way down. I toyed with the dodgy-dog underpass route, but in the end plumped for cutting about across Worcester Park, slipping through the Hook estate (using a route dedicated to only buses and cycle route) and slipping along the railway to the Wells estate. I don’t know who designed this area, but I’m assuming it was a sci-fi fan.

Unfortunately we were slightly late leaving so my plans to take Husband back through Fetcham and Cobham had to be canned and we did a rather dull commuter trail back through Kingston instead, largely on main roads, albeit with cycle lanes.

We were potentially going to be so late back for school runs that we didn’t even have time to stop for a coffee. Luckily I had packed a couple of pieces of cake. I didn’t actually pack them in the cotton bag that would be called a musette in riding circles, but they were in my stem bag http://www.evanscycles.com/products/topeak/tri-bag-stem-bag-all-weather-ec033777 and that’s close enough.

Note to self: remind Husband he need more clothes when he is riding with me. He was cold again…

Rock bottom…

On my hit list: Specialized Lithia Comp gel, similar to my usual saddle

Map reference: Velosport, Putney

Carbs and caffeine: declined a cup of tea as I’ve wasted enough of Nick’s time

A couple of laps around Richmond Park yesterday left me in no doubt that the Adamo and I were not friends after all. In fact we are now intimately classified as enemies. So I took myself back to Velosport, where Nick tried me on another saddle and generally shuffled me about. Apparently I sit too far back on the Adamo to get the benefit of it’s design. Eventually I trotted home to collect the Giant I have been riding for four years and we swapped the saddles over, not before Nick took careful note of the angle I had been riding the saddle at. Apparently 6% down is pretty extreme and not recommended. Oh, ignorance is bliss.

So finally comfortable on the LaPierre, I suggested that we hunt the shop for a similar saddle. To his credit, Nick instead pulled up the Specialized website, and suggest I buy a racier version of the saddle I was comfortable on. He says his reading around fitting for women has taught him that women are particularly difficult in the saddle area, whereas he has never found a saddle he couldn’t sit on. There you go, men are from Mars…

I said I was going home to spin. Nick told me not to be such a fool with my still aching back and charged me with stretching instead. So I have done four YouTube workouts. In the end, Sugarpop http://www.popsugar.com/fitness seemed the best, but there are thousands to go for. The thumbnail pictures are interesting for some, suggesting they are not necessarily aimed at middle-aged Domestiques.

Yes, Nick you are right, my ITB http://www.active.com/cycling/articles/tight-it-band-3-simple-exercises-to-fix-it-now is very tight (hence the odd left leg stroke), and my hip flexors too.

Note to self: see if the Specialized Concept store will let you try before buying

Domestique bliss

Map reference: Wimbledon, Epsom Downs, Bookham, hilly loop, 73k

Carbs and Caffeine: Domestique Cycle Cafe, 8 Grove Corner, Great Bookham http://www.domestiquecyclecafe.co.uk/

Bealsey http://www.bespoke-velo.co.uk/ was down to his two stalwarts, Jen and me again today. I guess the other ‘ladies’ are still regrouping after the half term break. He asked if we wanted hills or flat and, after a certain pause, we plumped for hills. We both like hills it’s just hard to actually choose the leg-achy route. Decision made, it was our usual flip though the suburbs and then up through Epsom high street to the racecourse, then down a different road and, you guessed it, back up to the grandstand again. Apparently you can do that, cartwheel fashion round the race course ad nauseam, but luckily we pushed off before sickness actually kicked in.

I have to say my lungs are still far from A1 after our family virus. I also felt uncomfortably low on juice going up the 20% hill towards Bookham, near Polesden Lacey. Luckily, a new carb stop awaited me. It’s name clearly points it at cyclists, and it has secure bike parking, although we didn’t feel the need to use it.

The welcome was warm, and if the walnut cake was a little thickly spread with butter icing, that was easily fixed. Some people would probably relish the extra icing, but I could see Bealsey looking a bit askance as he nibbled on his biscuit. I removed the offensive addition and tucked into the very nice homemade cake underneath.

In case you don’t understand the reference in the cafe’s name, domestiques are the members of a cycle team charged with delivering water and food to the main competitors http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestique. They are quite heroic in their efforts to help the team, carrying the extra weight and killing themselves to get up to their team mates at the front of the pack, then drifting back down the peloton exhausted. Maybe, next time I am asked what I do for a living I shall say Domestique, it certainly sounds better than housewife, which I cannot say without stuttering…

Note to self: more hills needed, now spring is springing

Fit for purpose

Hole lot better: a popular choice at the moment for men and women alike

Map reference: Velosport, Putney http://www.velosport.co.uk/

Carbs and caffeine: some French biscuits (from ski holiday… no biking but plenty of fresh air)

The ‘fit’ doesn’t refer to me this time, the fit was for the bike. I had um-ed and ah-ed about where to go to get the new LaPierre fitted, but in the end it was a no-brainer to go to Husband’s ‘pet’ shop. They’ve built a bike for him in the past and repaired and prep-ed his bikes for his various challenges. It’s good to develop a relationship with a local shop. For a start they know as we walk in that we are not about to buy one of their top end bikes and that saves a lot of time.

We were late for our appointment with Nick as Husband had to fit some pedals onto the bike and lower the seat so I could sit in the knife edge saddle. It was a very uncomfortable ride to the shop; the brakes seemed out of reach and my rear end was certainly getting a bum deal.

Nick was sympathetic to my complaints (no need for biological vocab, just pointing and pulling a face was enough) and started by fitting an Adamo saddle. They are the ones that look a bit like a tuning fork, with two prongs at the front and a large gap in the middle. Enough said, I think we know what that geometry is all about. Then it was down to measuring and tweaking and sticking fuzzy dots on me… and then videoing the result. I don’t like me on camera and this was no exception, but the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures were a revelation. I looked much more comfortable, and less hunched up… although with my shoulders I shall always look more like a rower than a pro cyclist.

I can’t wait to have a proper go on some familiar hills so I can feel the difference. Well, actually, I will have to wait for the weather to clear … again

Out of zip

Map reference: at home with sick child

Carbs and caffeine: usual trawl through kitchen cupboard

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday blithely congratulating myself on feeling great; today I can barely turn my legs. Yesterday’s ride and a lost night’s sleep have completely taken the zip out of my zing. I have tried, I really have. I sat on the bike for 45 minutes willing my legs to go round as I watched Netflix rubbish, but it was simply awful.

I have also been trying to think of a simple name for your riding partner after a chap yesterday ended up referring to Neil as my colleague (see yesterday’s blog), but the brain is also on strike. I thought I had had some ideas in the night, but this morning over breakfast I realised they were too poor to share. I will get there.

Note to self: Vitamin C… got to be worth a go

Rattle and roll

Map reference: Wimbledon, Cobham, Leatherhead, Ashtead loop, just under 60k

Carbs and caffeine: Cafe Bean, Ashtead, usual great welcome, new cake… prune and apricot slice

At last, out with Neil on a real bike. No pretend puffing up hill (ok, when spinning it’s real puffing, but pretend hills), and the feel of the wind on my face instead of the odd blast from the rotating fan.

It was a little grey (only clear glasses required) but mild. Neil had achy legs from throwing himself back into other training, but more worrying was his squeaky bike. In fact there is something majorly wrong with his front wheel which makes a non-stop crackling, slapping noise. I had severe doubts that the bike would make it. It did, but I cut out a hill… there was no way I was going to get stranded up Headley Road with a one wheeled bike. Closer inspection at the coffee stop showed the rims are completely knackered too. It’s a real workhorse of a bike, but I think it’s time the old nag was retired. An investment is needed. At least some new wheels.

Aside from that, I felt really strong after my week off the road, and managed to stay far enough ahead of Neil that I didn’t have to hear the squeak. Poor guy, I can’t imagine it’s a comfortable ride at the moment.

In the coffee shop a man became rather flustered when he found himself referring to Neil as my partne… er … colleague. What is a riding companion to be called? I shall give it some thought.

Note to self: Got to get out there one more time before half term. Call Jen, quick

Home front

Map reference: home

Carbs and caffeine: the fridge

I may not have posted since Thursday but I have not been idle. You can pretty much assume that I do one of Beastly Beasley’s turbos if nothing else is mentioned. I have three to choose from. They are all painful, but I am very bloody minded and once I get on the bike I push myself quite hard. I’m glad the neighbours can’t see me; solo effort looks quite comical, like you’re having a battle with yourself.

On Saturday, Husband and I also did a Functional Fitness class, with Jay, a curiously quiet and serious bodybuilder. I don’t know for sure he’s a bodybuilder, but that’s what his physique tells me. I know he competes in something, but he won’t say what. And although he dresses soberly for our class, I have seen him wearing extraordinary outfits to the junior boxing class. Is that a bodybuilding thing, or am I stuck in the Seventies?

The exception to the ‘every day rule’ was yesterday, when I stood and shivered at a rugby tournament for four hours. I wonder if shivering works the twitch muscle I keep hearing about http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/anatomyandphysiology/a/MuscleFiberType.htm. Either way it was a test of endurance and drained me of any energy (and time) to get on the bike. Mind you, I wasn’t as drained as our team of Under 11s who had to face very strong opposition, with some of the players about a foot taller and much, much broader. Our team looked positively undernourished, but battled on regardless. No they did not win – no Hollywood ending then – but, boy, we were proud.

Note to self: you need a warmer coat